Welterweight world champion Kamaru Usman (15-1) has his first ever title defense coming up in just over a month against Colby Covington (15-1), but he’s still fielding questions about sudden superstar Jorge Masvidal (35-13). Masvidal has fought at the highest levels of MMA for over 16 years but is only now beginning to get his due in the mainstream.
Stunning stoppage victories over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz this year have propelled Masvidal to the top of the UFC’s superstar list, and so the lightweight-turned-welterweight is the biggest story at 170lbs right now, even with Usman and Covington fighting for the world title.
Despite Masvidal’s recent success and long career of elite competition, Usman told MMAFighting that he doesn’t think a whole lot of Masvidal, though he’d be happy to fight him. “I wouldn’t say [I’ve been] impressed,” he said.
“Nothing’s changed. He’s the same guy. He’s fought the same way forever. It’s just the luck of the draw. He’s getting that luck of the draw.”
Calling the undersized Masvidal “lucky” is an interesting approach for Usman, of course. The champ seemed to suggest that the only way Masvidal could impress him is if he were to go the distance and win against elite welterweights, the way Usman typically wins decisions.
“I’ve yet to see him fight a full-on welterweight from start to finish and completely dominate them,” he explained. “At that point I [could] say this is a different guy. But I think right now he’s riding the wave, and he’s got the luck of the draw on his side.
“Because he landed that knee [against Ben Askren, in July) in such impressive fashion he stole that hype that Askren was potentially riding. That has a lot to do with where he’s at right now.”
True enough, when fighters beat other fighters in impressive fashion, it usually goes a long way in establishing reputations and standings. That’s the way it always works — the impressive stuff is in the doing.
Though Usman may sound a bit petty in his assessment of Masvidal, he clarified that he can’t take away from any of his wins. “Ultimately, you can’t knock anything that he’s done,” he continued.
“I think he’s done a phenomenal job with the opportunity he’s been presented with and he’s ran away with it. I’m happy for him on that end.”
Usman certainly can’t be faulted for favoring himself in a potential matchup against Masvidal. Though the new champion still has to take care of Masvidal’s former friend Covington, next, he is confident that strong wrestlers like he and “Chaos” can handle the well-rounded Masvidal.
“I’m pretty sure we can kind of conclude how that went as far as [Masvidal and Covington] in the room training and whatnot,” he concluded.
“Because when Masvidal has been through the wringer, or fought wrestlers who were somewhat tough, he had a problem with them. You can only imagine what a guy that actually knows him and works with him every day [like Covington] was doing to him.”
In the end, it seems like Usman has a hard time believing that someone who has never done what he has — win a world championship — could best him. Usman seems to be interested in fighting Masvidal for the attention such a fight could bring him, but he isn’t yet convinced that “Gamebred” is at his own level.
“He’s got a lot of hype right now and he’s been in this sport for a long, long time. But at the end of the day, does it really matter that you have all that hype if you never get to the pinnacle of the sport?” he ended.
“I like the fact that he has all this hype. It brings a lot of eyes. So, if he does make it to me and that fight is made, I would actually be very, very interested in that.”
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